Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Format: ARC
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 323 pages
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.


As my sister can confirm very few books move me to tears. I'm one of those robotic, heart-of-stone kind of readers who may feel moved by a book or even movie but rarely enough to be moved to actual tears running down my face. And I think this is because I never really allow a story's characters, setting, and/or message to settle on my mind and my heart for me to really feel; to be honest, I'd rather not feel too much when reading because strong emotions drain me. 

Having said all that, when I read Love Letters to the Dead, from the first page, its words found a way to crawl into my stone heart and I had rivers of tears pouring down my face. This story--Laurel's story--will stay with me forever. It was that amazing.

As I read Love Letters to the Dead, I felt as if my life fell away and I was walking with Laurel as she recounted her experiences and her thoughts through her letters. I grew to love Laurel as she described to me all the ways she loved, admired, and missed her sister May. Her descriptions were both heartbreaking and loving. I loved her strong, fragile voice, and to this day, its beat echoes in my heart and mind. Many times throughout my walk with Laurel did I want to reach out and hug her.

All the details that made up Laurel's story--her family, her friends, her enemies, her home, nightmares, hopes, and dreams--fantastically came to life. All I can say is that they helped Laurel weave what sadness, grief, anger, and frustration she felt into something so beautiful, if it was a physical gift, you wouldn't have suspected that it was made up of things that are considered broken and dark.

Surprisingly, Love Letters to the Dead is a debut novel by Ava Dellaira. I say surprising because it doesn't read like a debut novel. Dellaira was able to take what small, hopeful lights there are in life's most pitiful emotions and craft them into something that is Love Letters to the Dead. It was beautiful. Love Letters to the Dead was beautiful.

I highly recommend anyone and everyone to read this book. I, myself, plan to re-read it soon.

5 comments

  1. I am incredibly curious about this novel. The premise seems really interesting but I wonder where it will go! It is great that you enjoyed it though and I am surpised about the tears! :)

    Glad you enjoyed it & great review! :) xx

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries

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  2. I'm glad so many people love this book as much as I do. It's definitely one of my favorites now.

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  3. Oh man, I have been waiting for this book since January!! But I'm on a book buying ban right now, so I can't get it. TEARS :'( I'm so glad you like it though, good to know that it lived up to the hype!


    Angel @ Spare Reads

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  4. Yay, I just received this one last week and really curious in reading it, it sounds really emotional. Glad to hear it moved you to tears, it's not often books can do this to us!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

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  5. Oh wow... We've heard mixed things about this, but your one line just convinced us to keep it on our TBR list: "I felt as if my life fell away." <3

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